Opportunity knocks

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Rising star

21-year-old James Ellams, frier at Fish & Chips @ Weston Grove in Chester, is not missing a single opportunity to learn, improve, meet new friends and support other young people in the industry

A local Chester lad, I left school unsure of what to do. I didn’t enjoy school and left with very few qualifications. My dad always said, whatever you do, make sure you enjoy it as you’re in it for a long time! 

I applied for a part-time serving job at Fish & Chips @ Weston Grove and soon fell in love with the frying role. I was offered a Level 2 apprenticeship and learnt from the very best, owner Richard. I didn’t realise you could work hard, learn so much and have such a laugh!

Richard and his wife Josette sent me on the NFFF fish frying course with the one and only David Miller. I was the youngest to complete the course and I went on to do a Level 3 apprenticeship. 

Last year, Josette put me forward for The Chester Hospitality People’s Awards in the Rising Star category. I won the award and, as a result, I’m now a category judge for this year’s awards. I’ve also been invited to speak at public events in the North West, encouraging young people to join our industry. I enjoy being a role model as our industry has given me so much and I’m now a home-owner with a young family at just 21 years old.

Our industry is second to none. I entered the Drywite Young Fish Frier of the Year award when it returned last year. It’s a fantastic competition, I learnt so much through the process and I have made the best of friends at events throughout the year. 

Going to London for the final ceremony, I had an opportunity to visit the Houses of Parliament, which was a great highlight. At the awards, I met Jamie Toland from Taylor’s Fish & Chips in Stockport, which is fairly near to our shop, and since being back, our two families met up for a fun day at Chester Zoo. It’s great to make new, like-minded friends. 

Straight after the awards, I hit the road to improve. I went to stay with and work with Jamie Russo at Redcloack Fish Bar in Stonehaven, winner of Best Newcomer and Drywite Young Fish Frier of the Year 2024. While there, I met Murray Watson from Carron Fish Bar in Stonehaven and the legend Stuart Devine of The Ashvale. They all made me feel so welcome.

A couple of weeks later, I was on the road again. This time to stay and work with the awesome Kimberly and Ryan Hughes, winners of Fish & Chip Takeaway of the Year. It’s amazing how all of these people want to share their knowledge and skills and take time to get to know you as a person. I am truly grateful for their friendship. 

Suppliers have also been superb; they stay and talk to me, getting to know me well. They have a genuine interest in young people and the future of our industry.

Seafood from Norway recently included the finalists of the Drywite Young Fish Frier of the Year award to an Inspiration Day in London. What a trip it was and how brilliant that they recognise the importance of young people in our industry. I’m planning more exciting trips which will be promoted shortly, so please keep your eye out and support the young people in our industry by encouraging them to attend.

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